I always knew Jamie Broad was good. But with his latest album Streams, he became the Scouse rapper I’ve always waited for.
Fans of Broad in the full bravado-mode of Mersey and Seine (2018) will have found their jams in the sensational Streaming, Bars and Pen Drive, but this is a modern MC finding his best fire in vulnerability.
On Streams, Broad lays bare his deepest fears, doubts, and scars from years spent balancing his talent with the realities and expectations of adulthood.
There are familiar dark turns into political despair (and who can blame him?), but Broad’s finest album yet will ultimately lift you with its principle themes of self-belief, and taking responsibility for perhaps all you can really control: You.
We caught up with Broad last week to ask him some questions.
Sun 13: Congratulations on a tremendous piece of work. In a truly mad year, how does it feel to have it out there?
Jamie Broad: “Thank you so much, I’m delighted to have put it out there. I had some hesitation with putting out the album over lockdown with not being able to perform or promote it in the way I normally would like. I’m glad I put it out when I did, though. I think putting together a body of work is a real achievement in itself, especially for an independent artist and it’s a really personal work so I’m really proud of it.”
S13: You seem to have a great ear for beats, and the production across the whole record is fantastic. Who did you work with on this, and what did the recording process look like?
JB: “The producers were all from the UK and largely local. Rosh (Streaming, All Rise, Free 2), Black Dot (Heads or Tails) and Felcon (Pen Drive) all worked on beats and they are all Merseyside based. I also worked with Blizzard, a rapper and producer from Manchester on some of the songs (Choose You, Want More and Breadcrumbs).
“The recording process was done over a long period at Go Play Studio with Kof who also wrote and delivered an amazing chorus on one of the tracks called Breadcrumbs. I normally like to spend a couple of days recording vocals and then mix and master everything after a few weeks away from the tracks.
“I try not to get myself in a position where I’m constantly listening back over the songs during the recording process because otherwise I can obsess over tiny details and so space from the recordings is good. I try to separate the recording from any mixing and do them separately for the most part. I’m very lucky that I can work with someone as talented as Kof and he really understands my process now because I’ve worked on a few projects at his studio.”
S13: Pre-lockdown, how would you describe the hip hop scene in Liverpool? Were you getting out to perform regularly?
JB: “I’ve been involved in the hip hop scene in Liverpool for over a decade and I honestly think it’s at the healthiest place its ever been. There’s such a diverse range of styles and talent and people are really working together. The scene is getting more attention locally and across the UK than it ever has before. There’s DJs playing local rap such as DJ 2Kind‘s L100 show on Melodic Distraction, KCC Live playing local artists and events being put on by the likes of Culture Deck and that’s only a part of what’s going on. Even with lockdown, the attention on the scene seems to have grown. I’m hoping there’s more shows to come in the future for everyone but hopefully there’s still venues that survive these hard times.”
S13: In Free 2 you brilliantly hammer home the importance of anti-sexism and anti-homophobia in your work. You’re also a rapper that doesn’t even swear. Coming up and finding your voice, Was it harder to write raps and avoid the ugly clichés?
JB: “Free 2 was a song where I reflected on my position in society as a white, straight male. It wasn’t an easy song to write and it took me to uncomfortable places but I felt it was something I had to do. I’m not perfect and like anyone I’m trying to figure things out. I just want to be open, to listen and hear from the experiences of others so I can treat other people better.
“The song was a reflection on a long journey which I’m still undertaking. In regards to clichés, I don’t really fit into a lot of the images people have of hip hop but it’s such a multifaceted genre and as a writer I’m just constantly trying to find my voice. People change over time and as I’ve changed, my music has changed and will hopefully continue to develop.”
S13: Are you hopeful that hip hop as a whole is moving past lazy and immoral content?
JB: “I’m never going to tell people what they should write about or listen to. I don’t represent all of hip hop but neither does anyone else. Personally, I find some content uncomfortable or not to my taste but I can’t dismiss the experiences or interpretations of others. We live in a world where we all consume all the time. The content of any music is available for people to consume or ignore. Hip hop is a such a wide genre that I think people can find content and styles that appeal to them if they look.”
S13: Men’s mental health is an issue that continues to gain attention. In Heads or Tails you encourage practicing gratitude instead of self-cruelty. I can certainly thank you personally for reminding me I’m not alone with the latter. It’s been a tough year for artists. How’s your mental health lately?
JB: “Thank you so much. The song was about the importance of perspective. I’ve found myself spiralling at certain points of my life and so I wanted to write a track where each line had a parallel which gave the opposite perspective, or the other side of the coin if you will.
“Like anyone I’ve found lockdown hard but I know I’m also really lucky to have a roof over my head and a space I can work in. The album was actually written about two years ago for the most part, so when I hear back some parts of the songs it really helps me reflect on where I’ve been. I try not to get too low or be too hard on myself, and part of that is also not being over the top when things are going well. Whether good bad I try to remember, ‘this too shall pass’.
“The mental health theme was strong throughout the project because the concept was all about streams of consciousness and digging into my thought processes. On the track Want More I wrote about men’s mental health and the importance of being open and talking about your struggles and acknowledging that it’s okay to struggle sometimes.”
S13: You talk a lot across the album about the discipline and graft your music requires. When you’re working on a project, do you have a set routine?
JB: “Yes, I have a routine. I collect random thoughts over the day on my phone and write them down in a pad at night. I also free write quite a lot, just put on a beat and write and write. That’s where the album concept came from, organising these streams of consciousness into songs.
“The hardest part is the editing process. I normally select beats then go through all the lyrics I have and fit them into themes and song choices. Then I cut down lyrics where I need to and add to other parts. At first it can be quite overwhelming as I’m sure anyone who has done any large writing projects can testify to.
“Once you see the songs and the project start to come together though it’s really exciting. Once I have everything written I go the studio to record but nothing is set too firmly in stone, I’m always open to changing songs at any point whether it’s the writing process, the recording or the mixing.”
S13: The old-school influences shine through in your sound. But I wonder is there any hip hop records from the last two or three years that you’ve loved?
JB: “I’ve been on a bit of a journey backwards recently, revisiting classics. It’s always really interesting to me to listen back to the stuff I listened to when I was a kid to hear whether it sounds different to me now. I’ve been going through Jay-Z’s back catalogue and Kanye, too. In the last few years Ghetts album, Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament is up there with my favourites.”
S13: What exactly are your goals moving forward? Do you still hope to make your living from hip hop?
JB: “I’d love to make enough money off music to focus on it full time but right now that probably seems unrealistic. Hip hop will always be a part of my life whether I’m releasing music myself or just supporting those who do. I’ll always write raps I think ‘cos I’ve been doing it since I was 10. In fact, I think I’ll always be a writer, in whatever form that takes. I’m currently writing my doctoral thesis so I’ve got 100,000 words or so to do there at least!”
S13: What can we expect from you in 2021?
JB: “More music. I’ve got music recorded and unreleased and some stuff I’ll be recording over 2021. I’d like to try and collaborate a little more, it’s something I’ve not done as much of. Hopefully some live gigs again. I’ve got ideas for some visual content too so expect to see me and not just hear me.”
Streams is out now. Purchase at Bandcamp.